EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 401, Number 2, April II 2003
Page(s) 711 - 720
Section Diffuse matter in space
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20030113

A&A 401, 711-720 (2003)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20030113

Test particle simulation of the Electron Firehose instability

G. Paesold1, 2 and A. O. Benz1

1  Institute of Astronomy, ETH-Zentrum, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
2  Paul Scherrer Institute, Würenlingen und Villigen, 5232 Villigen PSI, Switzerland

(Received 10 October 2002 / Accepted 22 January 2003)

In the course of the energization of electrons to energies of some tens of keV during the impulsive phase of a solar flare, the velocity distribution function of the electrons is predicted to become anisotropic with $T^{\rm e}_\parallel>T^{\rm e}_\perp$ (Here, $\parallel$ and $\perp$ denote directions with respect to the background magnetic field). Such a configuration can become unstable to the so-called Electron Firehose instability (EFI). Left hand circularly polarized electromagnetic waves propagating along the magnetic field are excited via a non-resonant mechanism: electrons non-resonantly excite the waves while the protons are in resonance and carry the wave. The non-resonant nature of the instability raises the question of the response of the electron population to the growing waves. Test particle simulations are carried out to investigate the pitch-angle development of electrons injected to single waves and wave spectra. To interpret the simulation results, a drift kinetic approach is developed. The findings in the case of single wave simulations show the scattering to larger pitch-angles in excellent agreement with the theory. The situation dramatically changes when assuming a spectrum of waves. Stochasticity is detected at small initial parallel velocities resulting in significant deviations from drift kinetic theory. It enhances the scattering rate of electrons with initial parallel velocity below to the mean thermal perpendicular velocity. Increased scattering is also noticed for electrons having initial parallel velocity within an order of magnitude of the resonance velocity. The resulting pitch-angle scattering is proposed to be an important ingredient in Fermi-type electron acceleration models, particularly transit-time acceleration by compressional MHD waves.

Key words: acceleration of particules -- Sun: flares

Offprint request: G. Paesold, gpaesold@astro.phys.ethz.ch

© ESO 2003

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